Written by Shayda Windle
Photos by Callie Broaddus
In 2017, Julie Fisher began teaching digital arts at Foxcroft School. A passionate advocate for arts education, she started thinking of new ways for her students’ artwork to be promoted throughout the town and beyond. Fisher decided to reach out to the owner of the Artists in Middleburg Gallery (AiM), Sandy Danielson, to see if she would be interested in exhibiting student work at their Washington Street gallery.
“AiM is a unique, non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together a community of artists and [supporting] arts in education,” Fisher says. “It seemed like the perfect venue to promote our girls and our wonderful arts program.” Danielson agreed and the two immediately began discussing the idea for a student exhibition.
Foxcroft’s first exhibit at AiM was in 2018. Since then, the show has traditionally taken place in March during Youth Arts Month, a program that began in 1984 to emphasize the value that visual art education brings to children. In 2018 and 2019, Foxcroft photography students selected a favorite image from their body of work to display at the gallery. Each student prepared their own exhibition labels, and signed, editioned, framed, and hung their artwork in the gallery. They had the opportunity to experience the full gamut of an exhibition experience as independent artists promoting their work. They even helped to create and distribute promotional materials as well as coordinate and set up each opening reception. AiM graciously donated 100% of the sales back to the school to support its art programs.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, the exhibit was put on hold much to everyone’s disappointment. However, now able to bring the Foxcroft project back, this year’s exhibit at AiM will be called “The Bluest of Blues.” Fisher explains that the theme pays homage to a children’s book written by Fiona Robinson in which she tells the story of Anna Atkins, the first female artist to publish a book of photography. Atkins was a botanist and she used the cyanotype process to make impressions and catalog various plant specimens.
This year, Fisher read the book in her classroom as an introduction to the cyanotype process. “Even the older students always enjoy a good story time,” she shares. “My photography class will be visiting Claude Thompson Elementary School to share this book and teach young artists how to make a cyanotype. After learning about this project, the author was delighted to give us permission to use her book title for this collaborative exhibit.”
For this exhibit, Fisher adds, “We envisioned an entire display dedicated to the cyanotype photographic process. Paper or fabric is coated with a simple two-part, non-toxic chemical solution, then objects, drawings, or negatives are placed on top and it is exposed in the sun. Anywhere that light reaches the surface will turn a deep cyan blue. The material is then washed with water and once it dries you have an archival image that will last a century or more.”
Foxcroft junior Helen Ventikos, who is participating in the exhibit, says she wanted to create something a little more natural while working with cyanotypes. She chose the theme of a journey. “There is a road with a compass on top; this displays the direction and path,” Ventikos says. “The steering wheel shows movement. Movement is also demonstrated with the wave background. Lastly, the evil eye symbolizes protection. All of these symbols have circular backgrounds to illustrate how the journey is a circular motion. Furthermore, the circles provide unity among the three objects.”
Juliana Rose, a sophomore at Foxcroft, also expressed her enthusiasm about the project and the two pieces she created for the exhibit. The first is a photograph of her cat which reminds her of home, and the second is an upright picture of the Foxcroft schoolhouse with a blueprint underneath. Rose says she “went from attempting to expose the image onto wood, to moving to paper, and from then on, sealing an image to a wooden backing that was laser cut.” She adds, “The wood itself was an important part of the result for me, as I wanted to symbolize as much of the idea of blueprints and architecture as possible.”
After years of canceled events, this exhibition is especially exciting and marks a return to celebrating arts education in person. Don’t miss out on “The Bluest of Blues” which will run from March 25 through April 3 at the Artists in Middleburg gallery in downtown Middleburg. ML
This article first appeared in the March 2022 Issue.